The Scarlet D: Overcoming The Shame Of Divorce


I saw the neatest thing one day…  

It was a beautiful spring Saturday morning and I was walking out the front door of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Branford, Conn., where I had stopped in to make a little visit. As I headed down the front walk, I saw a huge guy on a Harley Davidson who was driving past the church and he definitely fit the part: long hair, goatee, lots of leather and tattoos. But what really caught my attention was that as he motored loudly past St. Mary’s, he made the sign of the cross. 
My parents had always taught me and my siblings to make the sign of the cross as we passed by a church, telling us it was a way of acknowledging Jesus’ Eucharistic presence from afar (of course as very little kids, they told us it was like waving hi to Jesus). 
I felt a little tickled at being able to witness that moment as I left the Church….who in the world would have thought some big, burly biker dude would be reverencing the Eucharist in public as he roared down Main Street?
And that’s my point: who would have expected that from a guy like him? I think people are far too quick to judge others these days and in doing so, they miss out on some incredible things simply because they have placed a label on a particular person and then discount them or don’t give them a second thought.
  • “Oh, he’s a biker, so he must be a pagan.”
  • “Oh, she’s over 35 and has never been married, there must be something wrong with her.”
  • “Oh, he’s divorced and obviously is a failure. Not a good Catholic.”
Oh, how we deny ourselves of the gifts other people have to offer – gifts that would surprise and overjoy us – if we could only stop labeling and judging!
When I went through my divorce so many years ago, I went forth to rebuild my life and felt as if I was wearing a Scarlet D on my chest for everyone to see and judge my by. I was horrified that I had to identify myself on an employment or loan application as divorced. I felt I needed to explain to everyone that the divorce wasn’t my choice, but that’s not always possible, and you have to just be frustrated by the fact that the person who gets your personal information is just going to think what they’re going to think.
But I had to remember – and often times it was a friend or a family member doing the reminding – that there was so much more to me than being divorced. I had gifts, I had talents, I had a heart that wanted to love! The suffering I had endured through my divorce and afterward had deepened my faith in God and I became a better Catholic because of it. I had accepted the fact that I had faults that contributed to the breakdown of my first marriage and worked hard to change that. In a way, I felt like I was better prepared for a relationship than I ever had been before so I had to believe in myself and ignore the ones that judged me and my D.
So I hope that if you are divorced and have suffered much because of it, you will remember that your divorce doesn’t define who you are. You are so much more and have many gifts to offer someone else. But more than that, you have a treasure to offer others: the gifts of understanding and compassion that are so rare these days. You don’t judge; you offer your shoulder in consolation. You don’t label; you listen.
Always remember that in God’s eyes, you are the most beautiful creature ever and He will do anything to be with you!



  1. Mary D. June 29, 2012 Reply

    While the article seems “nice” it neglects those who have been divorced and are remaining faithful to their marriage vows. I noticed “first marriage” in the article.

    In the Roman Catholic Church we all know there can only be 1 marriage while both spouses are alive.
    Not all marriages, that end in divorce ,can be annulled.
    This fact is often overlooked.
    There are many spouses living out their married life,faithful & alone.

  2. Liza R. May 30, 2012 Reply

    While I agree with “divorce does not define you” – we must be extremely careful when counseling the divorced that they “… have many gifts to offer someone else. ” This ONLY applies to those who are free to marry. This is not optional for Catholics, regardless of how we may or may not feel about it. Offering ourselves to someone must come with the ability to do that freely, and if we are not free to marry, then we must also accept the fact and reality that we can from that point on, only give ourselves to Christ.

    Yes – I’m divorced – my 11 year “marriage” was invalid. And I knew full well that if that was not found to be the case, that I would remain alone, while always married to my first and only spouse.

    Accepting God’s will, and God’s law in our lives is every bit as important, and even more so, than accepting ourselves. Because without Him, we are nothing.

    • Lisa Duffy
      Lisa Duffy June 4, 2012 Reply

      Hi, Liza,

      By stating that divorced men and women have many gifts to offer, I was not referring to remarriage, I was simply saying that their God-given gifts can still be put to use for the good of others and divorce brings a sort of compassion that non-divorced people don’t necessarily have. Going through a divorce can make you a better friend and listener. It can deepen your faith in such a way that you become interested in helping others who are suffering come closer to Christ, etc. There are a lot of positive attributes that can be put to the service of others that are side effects of the terrible suffering that comes with divorce.

      • Maria C. June 10, 2012 Reply

        I find Liza’s explanation very important to consider. We have to be careful on this matter and we must always explain that the first marriage has to be stated invalid to be free to get married again . I would suggest you to always tell that your first marriage was invalid. Otherwise you would not be giving a good testimony and a good advice.

  3. Lorrie-735074 May 25, 2012 Reply

    This was exactly what I needed to hear today. I was actually feeling very down on myself, and a lot of tears. I feel like no one wants to be my friend, some even see me as threatening because I’m no longer married. I needed this hug–thanks so much.

  4. Mary-699550 May 21, 2012 Reply

    I’ve been divorced for a number of years now. I remember vividly feeling that ‘scarlet D’ especially when answering questions on forms. There is nowhere to say ‘but I had it annulled’ or ‘it wasn’t my choice’. It is one of the deepest pains a person can endure, yet I know in the end I too am better off for it.

  5. Catherine-135441 April 15, 2012 Reply

    Well written article. Thank you Lisa. Though I have never been married, I identified with a lot of what you had to say.

  6. Stephen-725391 April 12, 2012 Reply

    Lisa, I hope, pray and wish that I will achieve only a small percentage of what you have. You share it with those of us out here in that pain and suffering. Thank you ever so much. When I feel despair over taking me, I think of your encouragement and how much more pain you over came than anything I am experiencing. Stephen

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